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Montreal college student "goes wild," wins $568,974

5 Jun 2010

Pascal Lefrancois, a 23-year-old college student from Montreal, Quebec, won $568,974 and the $1,500 buy-in No-Limit Hold'em championship (Event #8) at the World Series of Poker in the early morning hours on Saturday.

He topped a huge field of 2,341 players over a three-day tournament, and his victory was cheered on at the Rio in Las Vegas by a rowdy group of French Canadians, who ringed the final table and roared every time Lefrancois won a big hand. Indeed, a World Cup atmosphere prevailed most of the night, as six different nations were represented at the final table: Australia, Brazil, Canada, England, Israel, and the United States.

Lefrancois is currently pursuing a business degree at Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commerciales de Montreal (HEC), which is affiliated with the Universite de Montreal. He played hockey in high school, and when he was 17, he began playing poker for fun and gradually became more involved in the game.

"I always liked to play cards," said Lefrancois. "Five years ago, I was playing hockey and I learned about poker. That became a passion for me. I did that while I studied."

Following his victory, Lefrancois ripped off his shirt and posed bare-skinned in the traditional winner's photo shot. It was the first time any player in the history of the WSOP had gone bare-chested for the champion's portrait. Lefrancois was inspired to do something different by his friends, who are part of a group which calls themselves, "Team V-Neck."

"We always laugh about our v-necks," said Lefrancois. "We are 'Team V-Neck' because we wear those kinds of shirts. They were all cheering for me to take off my shirt. I was excited, so I did it."

Poker player gone wild: Lefrancois wins at WSOP.

Poker player gone wild: Lefrancois wins at WSOP. (photo by GreasieWheels)

Lefrancois dominated play at the final table. He held the lead most of the way and held a 2-to-1 chip lead over the rest of the field for a majority of play. When heads-up play began, Lefrancois enjoyed a 9-to-1 chip lead over runner up, Max Josef Steinberg, a 21-year-old professional poker player from Fairfield, Iowa. Steinberg is a devoted believer in the power of Transcendental Meditation.

The final hand of the tournament came when both players saw a flop cheaply. The initial board cards showed king-jack-four with two clubs. Steinberg bet out, and Lefrancois called. The five of hearts came on the turn, and Steinberg made a modest-sized bet, which attracted a quick call by Lefrancois. The 10 of diamonds came on the river. Steinberg moved all-in and was called by Lefrancois. Steinberg tabled a pair of fours, while Lefrancois shows a pair of jacks, good for the pot and the win.

Kevin Howe, from Kent, U.K., was third. He was formally enlisted in the Royal Navy for nine years and now plays poker professionally. Howe cashed for $200,000 in an online tournament, but eclipsed that figure with this third-place finish, which paid $249,351.

Daniel Wjuniski, a high-tech entrepreneur from Sao Paulo, Brazil, finished fourth. He hoped to become the second WSOP gold bracelet winner from Brazil (Alexandre Gomes was the first, in 2008), but will have to settle for the $179,286 he won in prize money.

The fifth-place finisher was David Aue, from Houston, Texas. He also cashed in the $1,500 No-Limit Hold'em tournament (Event #3), which means he outlasted nearly 7,000 players between the two events. Aue was paid $130,617.

Jim Anderson, from Canberra, Australia, was sixth, Kurt di Sessa from Oakland, Calif., was seventh, and Josh Brikis from Pittsburgh, Pa., was eighth.

Saar Wilf from Tel Aviv, Israel, who reportedly took home more than $20 million when he sold his startup company Fraud Science to eBay, was ninth. The payday was slightly lower than his business transaction of a few years ago: ninth-place paid $41,842.

The top 243 finishers collected prize money. Aside from those who made the final table, former WSOP gold bracelet finishers who cashed in this event included Phil Hellmuth, Vincent Burgio, Andrew Cohen, David Daneshgar, John Esposito, Maciek Gracz, Cliff Josephy, Jordan Smith, and Steve Sung. With his 15th-place finish, Hellmuth extended his lead as the all-time WSOP leader in cashes, currently at 76.

(Modified from original notes by Nolan Dalla for
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